Liability Protections Under Consideration for Businesses Set to Reopen During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the Senate set to return from recess on Monday, liability protections related to the COVID-19 pandemic are anticipated to be a hot button issue. While state and local governments are seeking financial aid from the federal government to assist in their battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, relief packages may also include protection from future legal actions against businesses.

As stay-at-home restrictions are beginning to be lifted, and businesses are starting to reopen, there are concerns that employees and customers will file suit against businesses, claiming that they were infected with COVID-19 as a result of the businesses’ failure to take appropriate measures to protect them once reopening occurs. This fear is likely in response to lawsuits that have already arisen against businesses related to COVID-19. For instance, earlier this month, a Celebrity Cruises crewmember, who contracted COVID-19 while working on a Celebrity ship, filed a proposed class action alleging that the cruise company failed to take adequate measures to protect the employees on its ships.[1] The crewmember filed the proposed class action in a Florida federal court, claiming that the cruise company failed to follow safety precautions after receiving notice that COVID-19 was or was likely present on the ships, such as permitting crewmembers to continue to eat in a buffet setting, and mandating crewmembers’ participation in shipboard drills.[2] Continue reading “Liability Protections Under Consideration for Businesses Set to Reopen During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

HHS Offers Details on Liability Immunity of PREP Act Following Passage of CARES Act

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has provided an omnibus advisory opinion in response to various requests for clarification of the scope of tort immunity provided by the declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act). The PREP Act declaration provides immunity from tort liability for various persons, products and activities in response to COVID-19, as explained in our March 17, 2020, Alert. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) subsequently expanded these protections.

To read the full text of this Duane Morris Alert, please visit the firm website.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning-Based Medical Devices: A Products Liability Perspective

Artificial intelligence (AI), once little-known outside of academic circles and science fiction films, has become a household phrase. That trend will continue to expand as the public becomes more exposed to AI technology in everyday products, ranging from their cars and home appliances to wearable devices capable of tracking the metrics of their everyday routines. Perhaps no facet of AI has sparked observers’ imaginations more than machine learning (ML), which is precisely as it sounds: the ability of computer programs to “automatically improve with experience.” Machine learning lies at the heart of the kind of independent and superhuman computer power most people dream of when they consider AI.

While the public’s imagination is free to run wild with the promises of ML—creating an appetite that will no doubt be met with an equal and opposite response from businesses around the world—traditional policy and law-making bodies will be left with the task of trying to adapt existing legal and regulatory frameworks to it. Therefore it bears consideration how existing products liability norms might apply to AI/ML-based products, if at all, and what sort of uncertainties may arise for product manufacturers, distributors, and sellers. No enterprise better illustrates the careful balance between the endless potential of AI against the unique risks of products liability concerns than the medical device industry. This article discusses the uses and unique benefits of AI in the medical device context, while also exploring the developing products liability risks.

To read the full article by Duane Morris partner Matthew Decker, visit the MD+DI website.

Order Requires Disclosure of 3rd Party Funding Information in Zantac MDL

On April 3, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued an order in the pending Zantac multidistrict litigation (”MDL”) requiring disclosure of funding arrangements and funding documentation between plaintiffs’ counsel and third-party litigation financiers. This order represents some increased traction in favor of arguments seeking to require disclosure of third-party funding arrangements in MDLs.

The Zantac MDL, In re Zantac (Ranitidine) Prods. Liab. Litig., MDL No. 2924, was originally formed by the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation on February 6, 2020. The plaintiffs sued various defendants, including manufacturer Sanofi and its distributors, alleging that the active ingredient in the heartburn medication Zantac breaks down to form a carcinogen that caused personal injuries. Included in the MDL are also six putative classes of consumers who sought refunds and economic damages based on their purchase of Zantac. Due to a number of actions already pending in the Southern District of Florida, the Panel transferred the remaining actions to that court to be assigned to the Honorable Robin L. Rosenberg.

Continue reading “Order Requires Disclosure of 3rd Party Funding Information in Zantac MDL”

Personal Protective Devices Available Through 3D Printing Process

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) has significantly outpaced the capabilities of the traditional supply chain. Gowns, gloves, facemasks, and face shields are valued commodities that even many healthcare providers cannot secure in this environment. While traditional supply and manufacturing chains struggle to keep up with production, industry leaders have turned to 3D printing, or additive manufacturing technology, to address this dire need. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods, companies with already established additive manufacturing technologies can more readily and efficiently adapt their productions to manufacture such PPE. 3D printing manufacturers may already have the powder or fabric necessary to manufacture PPE. They also have versatile printers. These companies simply need software and product design specifications, which allows them to begin production much more quickly than companies relying on traditional manufacturing methods that require additional raw materials and even machines and equipment.

For example, Superfeet, a shoe insert manufacturer, which typically uses 3D printing for manufacturing its products, was contacted about its ability to assist with a shortage of powered air purifying respirators (PAPR) hoods to hospitals in Washington state. The company had printers and fabric already. In just a few short days, Superfeet was making PPE.

To read the full text of the article by Duane Morris , visit the MD+DI website.

Testing Methods for Asbestos in Talc Will Be Subject of FDA Public Forum

On January 9, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it will host an all-day public forum to discuss testing methods for asbestos in talc and cosmetic products containing talc on February 4, 2020.

According to the FDA, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss testing methods, terminology, and criteria that can be used to characterize and measure asbestos, as well as what the FDA preliminarily states may be “other potentially harmful elongate mineral particles (EMPs)” that may contaminate talc and cosmetics products that contain talc.

Read more in the Beauty and Cosmetics category of the Duane Morris Fashion, Retail and Consumer Branded Products blog.

Why Reformers Want Disclosure Of 3rd-Party MDL Funding

It is no secret that third-party litigation funding, or TPLF, has become an increasingly common practice. One area particularly affected by this trend is that of mass tort actions and multidistrict litigations, where funding is now more than ever being utilized to finance voluminous and prolonged proceedings.

While courts have historically been reluctant to require disclosure of funding agreements and information, precedent suggests that different approaches may be warranted in the MDL context because of considerations unique to those proceedings — including potential for bias, distortions of control and decision-making as between litigants and funders, and conflicts of interest between funders and the judiciary.

Against this backdrop, advocates of disclosure have taken a proactive role in seeking further changes to rules of discovery and disclosure to address these issues. Litigants should be aware of these emerging efforts toward change, and the reasons underlying them, as the use of litigation funding continues to rise.

To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorneys Anne A. Gruner, Justin M. L. Stern and Nicholas M. Centrella Jr., please visit the firm website.

Much of Oklahoma’s $572 Million Opioid Case Likely to Be Replicated Elsewhere, But Unique Cause of Action May Not

On August 26, 2019, Cleveland County, Oklahoma, District Judge Thad Balkman delivered his highly anticipated ruling in the state of Oklahoma’s lawsuit against certain pharmaceutical companies responsible for manufacturing and marketing prescription opioid medications. Because the other pharmaceutical companies named in the state’s case settled with the Attorney General’s Office earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals remained the primary subjects of the evidence at trial and the focus of the attention surrounding Judge Balkman’s then-forthcoming ruling.

As Judge Balkman stated in the published judgment, the defendants knowingly and misleadingly marketed their highly addictive prescription opioids, and by doing so caused harm for which the state could seek redress, as their “actions annoyed, injured, or endangered the comfort, repose, health or safety of Oklahomans.”

View the full Alert on the Duane Morris LLP website.

Neon Eyeshadow Has Never Been More Popular, But Is It Safe?

In 2016, it was muted monochromatic makeup. The next year ushered in a spectrum of sunset reds and dusty pinks, and 2018 was the year of technicolor highlighter. With bold beauty trends on the rise, it’s no surprise that 2019 has been declared the year of neon. Pinterest reports that searches for “neon eyeshadow” jumped a whopping 842% over the past few months. For fans, especially Gen Zers, the look is a celebration of fun, commitment-free expression: Daydream, create, wash it off, and repeat. But what happens when experimenting with the latest beauty trends could put your health at risk?

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As for the brands that feature a disclaimer not to use on eyes, and then turn around and show models wearing the product on their eyes, Kelly Bonner, associate attorney at Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia, had this to say: “All labelling must be truthful, not misleading, and contain all required information in a prominent and conspicuous place. Determining whether a label is misleading requires considering whether it contains deceptive representations, or leaves out material facts or consequences resulting from the intended use of the product.”

To read the full text of this article quoting Duane Morris attorney Kelly Bonner, please visit the Refinery29 website.